From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The Yellow Rose of Texas is definitely worth stopping and smelling -- er, experiencing. And even if you've called the town home for a lifetime, chances are you haven't seen all it has to offer. Growing from the ranch communities that have long taken advantage of this area's wide-open spaces, Amarillo is definitely a place with big skies... and a whole lot to see and do underneath them.
In our explore local series, we hone in on the kinds of hidden gems visitors don't usually know about -- and a few that locals might not have heard of yet, either. That way, even long-time residents can get a chance to (re)experience their city, sometimes discovering and exploring places for the very first time.
Don't worry -- there's way more to Amarillo than unpredictable weather and cow country, though there's certainly no shortage of either of those. Here are our favorite things to get into in Amarillo.
It's the wide-open west -- so it's no surprise that there are some beautiful, natural spaces just waiting for you to recreate in them. Here are our favorite state and national parks in the Amarillo, TX area.
Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located in the neighboring community of Canyon, Texas, and is the protected home of a wide range of local critters including many migratory birds. There are four marked trails throughout the refuge, at varying degrees of difficulty, and an 11-mile auto tour loop which allows you to get a sense of your surroundings from the comfort of your vehicle.
Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway was first opened back in 1982, and encompasses a sprawling 15,000 acre stretch of Texas countryside, making it the third-largest such park in the state. This park is a popular destination for hikers and wildlife spotters, particularly considering the fact that it's home to the Texas state bison herd.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a popular go-to for those from across the state -- though those who call Amarillo home are lucky, since they only have to travel about half an hour to get there. The second-largest canyon in the U.S. (yes, you're guessing first place correctly), this unique geological formation ranges from 6-20 miles wide and 800-100 feet in depth.
Both within and without the state parks and nature preserves in the Amarillo area, there are some incredible opportunities for those looking to take to the area on foot. Here are some of the best hiking trails in Amarillo.
Taking a bit less than 8 miles for the out-and-back trip, visiting Rock Garden via Lower Comanche Trail will require a few hours of your time... but the sweeping desert valley views are worth it. Along with hiking, this location is popular amongst rock climbers who like to muscle their way up and onto the formations that form the "garden." Be sure to bring plenty of water!
Although it may be called the Medipark Loop Trail -- as in singular -- this park's hiking system is actually built of two interconnected loops, one of which is slightly longer than the other (1 mile and 3/4 mile, respectively). A paved path that's wide enough for a couple to walk side-by-side on, this easy amble is a great opportunity to catch some fresh air or go for a quick run.
If you're looking for a quick way to get outside and take in the fresh air, consider the Lower Bluff Trail and Windmill Trail Loop inside the Wildcat Bluff Nature Center. Running less than two and a half miles all told and seeing only about a hundred feet in elevation gain, this hike may be on the easier side, but it's certainly still an adventure.
A quick trip around a scenic body of water, the McDonald Lake Loop is less than a mile in length and sees absolutely zero elevation gain -- so it's a great trip for someone who's new to hiking or looking to take a bit of a rest day. Keep an eye out for runners, who also frequently use this path, and keep in mind that dogs are allowed as well, though they must be kept on-leash at all times.
Make no mistake about it: if you're going to enjoy Amarillo the right way, you're going to work up an appetite! Fortunately, there are plenty of amazing places to get your grub on. Here are some of the best restaurants in Amarillo, whether you're looking for Italian, Mexican, or even sushi.
Bearing the distinction of the oldest restaurant in town, GoldenLight Cafe and Cantina is more than a place to eat -- it's a legacy. Reading through its unique history is almost as enriching as reading through its menu, which includes indulgent classics with a decidedly Texan twist (for instance: the Waller burger, a cheeseburger topped with jalapenos).
Another homegrown Amarillo tradition, Jorge's Tacos Garcia has been in the business since 1988... but the care and concern that goes into their dishes has a much longer history. It's hard to pick the best Mexican restaurant in a town like Amarillo, where there are so many to choose from, but as soon as you pick up one of their burritos, fajitas or tacos, you'll know your search is over. (Pst: burgers and other not-so-exotic fare is available, also!)
Looking for a night in Italy -- without the long-haul flight? In Amarillo, it's hard to do better on date night than Macaroni Joe's, whose rustic and generous Tuscan fare is served up in a charming, but relaxed atmosphere. By the way, the food isn't the only attraction, here; Joe's award-winning wine list has over 600 selections to choose from, so be sure to bring your reading glasses!
If you're searching for the best Indian food in Amarillo or the best vegan and vegetarian eats in town... you've got the same restaurant as your answer. Indian Oven is Amarillo go-to for spicy and authentic Indian, with many gluten-free, dairy-free, and plant-based options to please all manner of dietary restrictions and observations. Whether you come for dinner, order delivery, or indulge in its all-you-can-eat buffet, you'll be sure to leave satisfied!
Yes, Amarillo is about as landlocked as it gets... but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy some incredible, fresh sushi while you're there. Along with a wide array of sushi roles, Ichiban also serves up ramen, katsu, and other Asian favorites. No matter what you're looking for, you'll find something to please your palate.
What are the top things to do in Amarillo once you've already dined and discovered the great outdoors?
Glad you asked. No matter your circumstances or your tastes, here are just a few of the fun things to get into in Amarillo this weekend (or whenever).
If you've got the family along for the ride, you're in luck -- there are plenty of fun things to do with kids in Amarillo. Such as:
What better to do with the fam than to enjoy a long afternoon meandering around wonderland -- Wonderland Amusement Park, to be specific? A thrilling adventure whether you take to the sky on its coasters or stay closer to the ground playing games and eating fair food, this one's sure to be a hit with every member of your party, no matter how old or young.
It may not be the biggest zoo in the country, but that doesn't mean it's any less wild! The Amarillo Zoo is home to over 150 animals representing 88 species, and all of them are waiting to make some new two-legged friends. Reptiles, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates, and birds are all hanging out here, ready to make your acquaintance!
We may take it for granted as 21st-century adults, but let's be frank: flying is cool, and kids know it. That's why the Texas Air & Space Museum is a great option for any family populated with young would-be engineers... or families whose members have a simple sense of curiosity and adventure.
Sure, there's no shortage of things to do in Amarillo during the day -- but what about at night, or for couples?
Here are some fun ideas for those looking for to-dos after one of those fantastic, ubiquitous Texas sunsets.
We didn't put The Big Texan into our suggested restaurant list because let's be honest: you've definitely already heard of it. But if you're on the hunt for something to keep you occupied after hours, it's hard not to pass up this restaurant's famous challenge: consume a ridiculous meal of shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, buttered roll, and (lest we forget) its signature 72 ounce steak in a single hour, and you get your massive case of indigestion for free. (Yes, 72 ounces is nearly five pounds of beef. No, we don't actually think this is a good idea... but the restaurant does offer fine food and a fun atmosphere, and it's a great place to grab a drink.)
From musicals and plays to trade shows and everything in between, if you're not sure what to do on a given night (or day!) in Amarillo, it's worth checking out what's going on at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. With 1,300 seats and great acoustics, there's not a bad spot in the house.
"Fun" and "free" don't have to be mutual exclusives! Here are some cheap -- by which we mean totally cost-free -- things to do in Amarillo.
Come on, how could we not share this unique Amarillo freebie? It's tucked into a working RV dealership, so it's possible you might find something else to buy while you're there (and possibly even a big something), but the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum is a unique look into the history of our very favorite form of travel, offering the opportunity to have a peek at several vintage models.
If you're at all into wacky roadside attractions -- and even if you're not -- Cadillac Ranch is a must. Originally erected back in 1974 by artist, millionaire, and prankster Stanley Marsh 3, this strange installment is now a living public art forum; you'll find folks with spray paint adding their little piece to the project no matter what time of day you visit. Even if you're not motivated to get your graffiti on, this spot is well worth a visit, and totally Amarillo!
You know the old song -- so now, go experience the modern reality. Amarillo's Route 66 Historic District is composed of 13 blocks of galleries, antique shops, restaurants, and bars along the town's well-populated Sixth Street. Sure, you may find something to buy, but wandering is free, as is window-shopping!
Everyone needs to be pampered now and again. Here are some of the best day spas, massage studios and salons in Amarillo.
Something, nothing will set you to rights quite the same way as a thoughtful, well-performed massage -- whether it's to relax your mind or rejuvenate your muscles. Back to Basics Massage Studio is staffed by committed and empathetic professionals who make it their life's work to ensure you feel as good as possible in your skin, and you're sure to feel a mite better when you walk out than you did walking in!
Massages and body treatments? Check. Nail and skin care? Check. Hair services ranging from cut to color and everything in between? Yeah, they do that too. Indulge Salon and Day Spa is truly built to meet every one of your beauty and wellness needs, no matter how complex or simple -- and they do it with a smile, too.
Looking your best is one thing, but feeling your best? That's worth working for. Here are some of the best gyms and yoga studios for those looking to get their sweat on in Amarillo.
Maybe you're the type who wants to sweat it out on their own terms, taking advantage of an array of great equipment and machines. Or maybe you work best with a little bit of motivation, and know you need a personal trainer cheering you on to meet your goals. Maybe you're a basketball player dreaming of dunking well enough to qualify for the NBA. No matter which of these sounds most familiar -- or even if none of them does! -- Amarillo's Downtown Athletic Club has everything you need to get in shape and stay that way.
Ever get the sense, walking into a large, big-box gym, that you just don't matter? At Zach's Club Amarillo, they say it best themselves: "here, you are not a barcode; you're family." And fit fam, at that!
If you're looking for a yoga practice that fits your whole life, Enlightened Health Center is a great place to start. Along with yoga classes, it also offers aromatherapy, herbal medicine, reiki and more to treat the whole body, holistically.
Obviously, there's no shortage of things to do in town -- but there's also plenty of fun to get into within an easy day's drive of Amarillo! Here are some of the best day trips in the area.
Hey, you're already just about on the same latitude line with this fun Oklahoma City -- just take a quick trip over the border and enjoy yourself in The Big Friendly. We highly recommend the Oklahoma City Zoo and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum!
This high-desert gem would be worth crossing the whole country for, but fortunately, you just have to go a few hours west. Wander around the central square and peruse the many gift shops, but if you're going to buy turquoise, be sure to buy from the Native Americans who set up shop in front of the Palace of the Governors. They were here first, after all!
A five-hour drive ain't nothin' -- but out here in the wide-open west, it's pretty par for the course. And Great Sand Dunes National Park is well worth the time spent behind the wheel, with its surreal landscape of rolling white hills looking as otherworldly as it does stunning. Some of the dunes top a shocking 750 feet in height, making them the tallest in America, and they're situated on a backdrop of gorgeous Colorado mountain countryside. There's plenty of hiking and camping in the area, too, so consider making this into a whole getaway weekend rather than just a day trip.
Note: some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Amarillo that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Amarillo? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.